JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Banks need to do better – hubs are rare as hens’ teeth
In theory, banking hubs are a good idea. In practice, they remain as rare as hens’ teeth despite the high winds blown by those who introduced them to our shopping streets. Indeed, if we were to believe the PR, we would think that the country is full of hubs. Unfortunately not. Only two are operational. Moral of this tale? Never trust public relations. Sometimes called local banks, these hubs are “banks of banks”, branches managed by an independent operator such as La Poste, but which can be accessed by customers of all major banking brands. Rare: Hubs are especially useful in communities that have lost all their banks. On some days, customers can even talk to staff at their own bank about issues that concern them – unusual given the propensity of big banks to turn their own branches into soulless spaces where machines rule. . Hubs are especially useful in communities that have lost all their banks. Unfortunately, outside of towns and cities, bankless communities are becoming the norm rather than the exception as banks ruthlessly eliminate branches (486 announcements of closure so far this year). Late last year, we were told five new hubs would be launched in 2022, adding to the two in operation in Rochford, Essex and Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire. So far, none of these five have seen the light of day. 22 others have been announced, but have not yet started. A few days ago, after another glowing PR announcement on Hubs, I asked for a progress report. Of the five hubs slated to launch this year, only one (Brixham, Devon) will be open before Big Ben rings in the new year. A hub in Cottingham, East Yorkshire (not one of five), is also due to open next month, followed by another in Troon, South Ayrshire, in early 2023. A score of one in five would be considered like failing a school test. I hope the Financial Conduct Authority will tell those involved (the banks) to up their game. In August this year he told the Mail on Sunday: ‘Companies need to pick up the pace and provide more banking hubs’ . We expect this to be done as a priority. Since no new hubs have been opened since his notice, I think it’s time to give banks an almighty line of thought, John… Thanks for all the kind comments on my new column. I was particularly touched by a note from John Pearce of Milton Keynes on the sorry state of our railways. John sent an article from the March 1934 edition of Railway Magazine. It detailed how, on Friday December 22, 1933, 40 additional trains had been laid day and night at King’s Cross station in London to cope with the volume of people wishing to travel north for Christmas. On December 22, 1933, an additional 40 trains were laid up day and night at King’s Cross station in London to cope with the volume of people wishing to travel north for Christmas. a couple of 89-year-old railroad magazines to see if there’s any helpful advice they can find. Absolutely. How wonderful it would be to hear “an extra train running” rather than “a train canceled due to lack of staff”. Support in the battle that attacks body and mind Living with cancer is painful on many levels. Often the pain is not just physical, but mental – for example, the worry of waiting for an appointment to see a specialist and not knowing what your cancer is doing. As someone with prostate cancer, I fear the regular quarterly checkup by my wonderful consultant Christopher Ogden. Not because of the unpleasant procedures involved, but because of the bad news it might bring. Cancer is eating away at my brain, sometimes causing sleepless nights. Protection insurer Zurich is keen to raise awareness of the impact of cancer on people’s lives. To that end, he has sponsored an online photography exhibit that is worth checking out. Organized by photographer Martin Parr and TV celebrity Merlin Griffiths, both of whom are battling cancer, it features photos taken by people with cancer. There is also a support video narrated by Parr. Both are worth checking out: zurich.co.uk/everydaymoments and youtu.be/rEZTGxsLFbw. Zurich has also made a donation to the cancer charity Maggie’s which does a wonderful job of providing support and information to cancer patients at centers around the country, usually close to hospitals. A friend, battling breast cancer, vouches for their wonderful advice (maggies.org). Last but not least on the subject of cancer, rest in peace to fellow financial journalist Martin Baker, who died earlier this month of prostate cancer. Too often the good die far too young. New Merc? I prefer my £25 prices! A friend told me she was about to sell a lot of her premium bond stake so she could buy a new set of wheels (her current jalopy just failed MOT). Despite advising her not to be so extravagant (she has her eyes set on a used Mercedes Benz C-Class, below, available for £24,000), she’s not ready to shoot. I will continue to buy a few bonds every month in hopes of someday winning a big prize – enough maybe to buy a brand new MercWas I understand her desire to be mobile in style (she is an actress after all) , NS&I Premium Bonds remain the only bright spot in my savings portfolio. Although my holding is only a fraction of my friend’s — not enough to buy a cheap used Fiat Punto — I still get a buzz when an email from NS&I tells me I’m a winner. I received one a few days ago as part of the November raffle – another £25 prize to add to the other five I have already received this year for the same amount. That is £150 of pre-tax prizes, compared to the £100 I snagged last year. I will continue to buy a few bonds each month in hopes of someday hitting a jackpot. Enough perhaps to buy a brand new Merc. Paying homage At 11am today I will be standing somewhere along the Thames Path in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, and sweating from head to toe, I will observe a two-minute silence to remember the service and sacrifice of all who over the years have defended our freedoms and protected our way of life. The half marathon I will be participating in is on Remembrance Sunday. The event revolves around a ‘race freeze’ at 11am where, at the sound of a horn, all the runners will stop to observe a silence of two minutes before resuming with the sound of three honks. We will remember, we will never forget. Britishlegion.org.uk. Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on it, we may earn a small commission. This helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any business relationship to affect our editorial independence.